House Republicans escalate attacks on Biden family, alleging business with foreign nationals
May 10, 2023, 9:28 AM EDT / Updated May 10, 2023, 12:43 PM EDT
By Summer Concepcion and Sarah Fitzpatrick
The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee mounted more attacks Wednesday against President Joe Biden and his family, alleging that relatives of the president engaged in business with foreign nationals.
Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., sent a memorandum Wednesday morning to Republican members of the panel, which is investigating the finances of the Biden family, about what he described as information that the committee had recently received from subpoenas from four different banks. The memo said the subpoenas were “tailored to specific individuals and companies that engaged in business activities with Biden family members and their business associates.” It does not detail a specific allegation of a crime committed by the family or relative of the president.
The memo provides limited details about the Biden family’s alleged business dealings with foreign nationals. It alleges that the Biden family and associates’ activities in Romania “bear clear indicia of a scheme to peddle influence from 2015 to 2017,” saying that while Biden was vice president, his son Hunter, through an associate, received more than $1 million from a company controlled by a Romanian official accused of corruption. There’s no evidence that Hunter Biden or his father acted improperly or violated any laws.
The memo also says the Biden family and associates’ “activities in coordination with Chinese nationals and their corporate entities appear to be an attempt to engage in financial deception.” The memo reiterates previous allegations that Comer made against Hunter Biden in March, in which he alleged that the president’s son and at least two relatives were paid $1.3 million by an associate of Hunter Biden who had been wired $3 million from a Chinese energy company that was affiliated with another company Hunter Biden had been doing business with. NBC News has reported that there was no indication that Joe Biden played any role in his son’s dealings in China.
House Oversight Democratic staff issued their own memo to Democratic lawmakers on the committee later Wednesday, hours after Comer’s was released, accusing the Republican chairman of making “unfounded accusations against President Biden and his family based on cherry-picked and misleading information about banking documents,” including Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) reviewed by the committee at the Department of the Treasury. The memo alleged that Comer has “intentionally mischaracterized SARs documents, presenting unverified tips from financial institutions as facts.”
“Committee Republicans’ inexplicable misuse of these confidential law enforcement documents is not only irresponsible, it demonstrates the hyper-partisan nature of Committee Republicans’ probe into the Biden family,” the memo said.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the ranking member of the Oversight Committee said in a statement accompanying the memo’s release that Comer “has failed to provide factual evidence to support his wild accusations about the President. He continues to bombard the public with innuendo, misrepresentations, and outright lies, recycling baseless claims from stories that were debunked years ago.
“Unable to implicate the President directly, Committee Republicans have resorted to using cherry-picked bank records, misrepresentations about confidential and unverified bank reports known as SARs, and baseless conspiracy theories to attack the President’s family, including his grandchildren.”
In response to Wednesday’s memo, White House spokesperson Ian Sams said Comer “has a history of playing fast and loose with the facts and spreading baseless innuendo while refusing to conduct his so-called ‘investigations’ with legitimacy. He has hidden information from the public to selectively leak and promote his own hand-picked narratives as part of his overall effort to lob personal attacks at the President and his family.”
“Instead of staging yet another political stunt, Chairman Comer and House Republicans should do their job, avoid default without conditions, and prevent a devastating economic crash that could cost millions of Americans their jobs,” Sams said.
In a statement to NBC News, Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s lawyer, decried Comer’s latest memo as falling short of providing concrete evidence of wrongdoing.
“It’s been five years of investigations into Hunter Biden and his legitimate business activities and still Republicans have nothing to show for it,” Lowell said. “Senate Republicans spent two years chasing conspiracies by those responsible for ‘Pizzagate’ and ‘the Big Lie’ and found no evidence of any wrongdoing. Now comes Rep. Comer who has spent the last five months making wild predictions without proof, asking inane questions out loud and falling short every time — including today.”
Lowell accused Comer of including “retread, repackaged misstatements of perfectly proper meetings and business by private citizens” in the memo.
“Instead of redoing old investigations that found no evidence of wronging by Mr. Biden, Rep. Comer should do the same examination of the many entities of former President Trump and his family members,” Lowell said.
Michael Cohen, former Trump lawyer who emerged as a key witness in a criminal case against him, slammed Comer’s memo during a press call Wednesday morning.
“The irony of Comer’s claims about the Biden family should not be lost on the fact that the Trump children profited more off their father’s presidency than anyone in history,” Cohen said.
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Cohen also accused Comer of “auditioning” to become Trump’s “future vice president.”
“If there are improprieties by Hunter Biden, present the evidence, not the innuendo and allow the system can make a determination,” he said.
During a press conference Wednesday morning, Comer detailed the Oversight Committee’s next steps after the release of the memo. Comer said he sent a subpoena to the FBI last week to provide the committee with a 1023 form, used to apply for tax exemptions, that a “whistleblower has alleged is in the FBI’s possession.”
“If they do, the committee will assess the form it has subpoenaed from the FBI. And, has been my practice, we will report to you only facts when they are verified and indisputable.”
Comer also said the committee is considering legislation “aimed at deficiencies it has identified in ethics laws and disclosure laws for immediate family members, a vice president and the president.” It is also considering legislation that would “strengthen reporting requirements related to certain foreign transactions involving senior elected officials’ family members, he said.
Additionally, Comer said the committee is evaluating the Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering laws to “determine whether financial institutions had the available tools and support from federal agencies to thwart illegal money laundering and foreign corruption activity.”
Asked whether the committee will be able to prove that Biden was directly involved in his son’s business dealings and that policy changes were influenced by it, Comer did not provide examples of any specific policy decisions that were influenced.
“You look at some of the decisions that Joe Biden’s made as president — there are many decisions that we would make a strong argument that put China first and America last,” Comer said. “So these are the types of decisions we’ll get into more of those later.”
As the newly minted House Oversight chairman, Comer in January renewed his request for the Treasury Department to turn over documents related to the business ventures of President Joe Biden’s family members, including “suspicious activity reports” connected to Hunter Biden and the president’s brother James Biden.
Comer at the time said his committee “is concerned about the national security implications resulting from President Biden’s family receiving millions of dollars from foreign nationals” and “will continue to follow the money trail and facts to determine if President Biden is compromised by his family’s business schemes and if there is a national security threat.”
In his memo Wednesday, Comer again said his committee “plans to gather additional bank records in the near future and continue following the money trail” as part of its commitment to “rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse that exist at the highest level of the federal government.”
Hunter Biden’s finances — specifically his tax payments to the IRS — have been under investigation by federal prosecutors in Delaware since 2018 under the Trump administration, before his father was elected president. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The federal investigation of Hunter Biden has narrowed from an inquiry into his international business relationships, including any possible national security implications, to an examination of the income he earned from those ventures and a false statement he’s alleged to have made during a gun purchase, sources told NBC News last month.
Federal prosecutors have considered charging Hunter Biden with three tax crimes — including possibly two misdemeanor counts for failure to file taxes and a single felony count of tax evasion related to a business expense for one year of taxes — and a crime related to the gun purchase, two sources familiar with the matter said.
Summer Concepcion is a politics reporter for NBC News.
Sarah Fitzpatrick is a senior investigative producer and story editor for NBC News. She previously worked for CBS News and “60 Minutes.”
Kyle Stewart contributed.